Pizza chain Domino’s has become the latest big business to hand back JobKeeper payments, joining Toyota, Super Retail Group and Iluka Resources in returning the wage subsidies to the federal government.
On Friday morning, Domino’s said it would return $792,000 in JobKeeper payments received by a subsidiary printing company in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
The printing subsidiary had remained eligible for JobKeeper throughout 2020, but Domino’s said in October last year that it would not be accepting any further JobKeeper payments.
In a statement, Domino’s Group chief executive and managing director Don Meij said the subsidies had allowed the business to stay connected with employees when the COVID-19 outbreak first took hold across the country.
“We appreciate the availability and support of JobKeeper during a period of significant uncertainty,” said Meij.
“That period has passed, the assistance package has served its purpose, and we return it to Australian taxpayers with our thanks.”
The company said the return of the payments has been provided for in its financials for the first half of the 2021 financial year, and the repayment will occur in the second half of the year.
Some independently owned Domino’s franchisees also received JobKeeper payments last year, however, the company said this was offset by $6.8 million provided by the company to help franchisees and stores cover costs associated with the price of ingredients and personal protective equipment, as well as rental assistance.
Domino’s saw its revenues and profits grow in 2020, as demand for takeaway food was strengthened during the pandemic.
In its 2020 results, Domino’s posted a 19.4% increase in profit, to $138.4 million, off the back of a 32.7% increase in revenue, to $1.9 billion.
The chain opened 74 new stores during 2020 and retained all of its franchisees throughout the pandemic, according to an update provided at its annual general meeting in November.
The company said on Friday none of its executives have received short-term incentives for the financial year where JobKeeper payments had been received.
Growing ranks of JobKeeper returns
Domino’s announcement comes after three other prominent businesses also said they would return JobKeeper amounts.
The voluntary repayments announced by these companies total more than $34 million and have prompted Labor’s Andrew Leigh to call on Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to establish an inquiry into JobKeeper.
Leigh told SmartCompany this week he is particularly concerned about what he says is a lack of transparency and accountability in the wage subsidy program, including in relation to firms that received JobKeeper but then recorded profit increases in 2020 and paid executive bonuses.
He says one solution could be to follow in New Zealand’s footsteps and create a public register of JobKeeper recipients.
“It would be appropriate for firms of say over $100 million to have their JobKeeper receipts disclosed on a publicly available database,” he said.
Meanwhile, documents obtained by the ABC show the Australian Taxation Office is investigating about 6,000 cases where employers may have misused the JobKeeper program by creating fake employees, or claiming payments for people who are dead or in jail.